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India destroys tall sculpture of Jesus Christ after complaints by Hindu nationalists

A 20-foot tall Jesus statue stands before it was demolished by the government in India’s Karnataka state in February 2022.

Authorities in India’s southern state of Karnataka demolished a 20-foot-tall statue of Jesus, which had been standing in the village for 18 years, claiming it was built on land earmarked by the government for an animal pasture.

The administration in the Kolar district said last week’s demolition of the statue next to St. Francis Xavier’s Church in Gokunte village. The Karnataka High Court had ordered the destruction, but local Christian leaders said the case was still pending.

Bengaluru Archbishop Peter Machado condemned the statue’s demolition, stating that the church possessed ownership documents for the land where the statue sat.

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According to Machado, church leaders tried to work with authorities to save the structure, but local authorities were uncooperative.

“It is sad to note that yet another ruthless demolition of a Christian Structure, which included a 20- feet Statue of Jesus and 14 Stations of Cross was carried out by the taluka authorities in a Christian Village, Gokunte, in Kolar, a District of Karnataka touching the border of Andhra,” Machado announced in a statement.

“Though the Church has documents of the two acres of the land where these structures were located, the local authorities considered them as not proper or incomplete.

The matter is still being heard in the Courts. In fact, the trial court had issued a stay order on the demolition, prior to the High Court’s directives.”

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A local official told the Catholic news outlet Crux that the high court ordered the demolition after seven or eight hearings. However, Machado maintains that there was a stay issued delaying the demolition.

“The government has been repeatedly saying that the demolition letter was issued. We have been asking her to show the demolition order. It is not clear if it was a judgement. But [the government official] never showed us the order,” Babu was quoted as saying.

“She has been claiming that the government advocate has sent her an email, saying that the high court has given an order and based on that she went ahead and demolished the statue.”
The priest also said a new hearing on the case had been scheduled for Wednesday, the day after the demolition,

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The villagers believe a Hindu nationalist group filed a petition in the high court to create tensions in the region.

“The video of the demolition was widely circulated, and the Christians are really alarmed and pained at such repeated acts by the pro-Hindu government machinery,”

Machado reports that over 200 policemen came for the demolition, which was done with bulldozers.

“It was heartbreaking to see hundreds of people shedding their tears. Even assuming that the structures were not fully authorised, Government agencies could have had the magnanimity to regularise these structures, which were in place for over 25 years,” Machado said.

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